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Strangely enough, it came up first on India Times and has since been picked up the The Daily Telegraph which, unlike the former, does not acknowledge the source - The Daily Mirror (no link).

Whatever the source, the information is the same: "Britain's defence bosses splashed out £730 million on meals, hotels and taxis, more than twice the bill for troop vehicles. While civil servants lived high on the hog using first and business class airlines, only £330 million was spent on defence vehicles, figures gained by the Mirror reveal."

That paper continues: "Last night the shocking contrast enraged relatives of soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in ageing Snatch Land Rovers branded as death traps. The spending figures for 2005/6, the latest available, were only released after a Mirror Freedom of Information request."

They show £730 million spent on "hotels, restaurants and transportation" and £330 million on "motor vehicles and parts". Civil service expenses include first class train seats, business class flights and private taxis. Officials are also put up in leading hotels around the world. They can claim back all meals, including wine with dinner.

Much in the same genre comes another story from The Daily Mail (and others), retailing that: "Defence chiefs have come under fire for spending £2.5 million on new flags while troops are fighting abroad with outdated and inadequate equipment."

Undoubtedly, there are rational explanations to these stories, and calm analysis would probably show that much of the expenditure is both necessary and perfectly reasonable. But this less about "reason" than it is perception. And these types of stories simply reinforce a growing belief that our masters (and their servants) exist solely to rip off the taxpayer and live high off the hog at our expenses.

Of course, the rot starts at the top and until the politicians start addressing the perception as well as the reality that public service these days is simply an opportunity to raid the public purse, trust in government only has one way to go – and it ain't upwards.

COMMENT THREAD

Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe election victory was "an exercise in power-grabbing" which is impossible to recognise, the European Commission said Monday, calling on the African Union to seek a political solution.

"It is not possible to recognise the legitimacy of the result of this election given the conditions in which this second round took place," EU development commissioner Louis Michel said in a statement. "This victory has simply been an exercise in power-grabbing and is far from the spirit of change and renaissance currently seen across Africa," he added.

And no, not in a million years can the situation in EU member states be compared with the horrors of what is going on in Zimbabwe. But, in principle, there is no difference between the "exercise in power-grabbing" represented by the European élites ramming through their constitutional Lisbon treaty and Mugabe's action.

Come to think of it though, there is a practical difference. At least Mugabe went through the charade of having an election.

COMMENT THREAD

As the European Union (and the United States) approve the new sanctions on Iran (the previous ones having worked so well) one cannot help wondering whether the participants in those negotiations and decisions have bothered to read the column penned under the name of Spengler, which gives some interesting details about what is happening in that country.

The outlook is not good either for Iran or her neighbours but the problems Spengler outlines may explain why there appears to be a certain retrenching in the support given to the Mahdi army in Iraq and the client terrorists of Hamas and, possibly in the near future, Hezbollah.

There is one very obvious reason why a French soldier should have opened fire with live ammunition instead of blanks at a military display in Carcassonne, injuring 17 spectators, some of them critically.

Quite simply, there must be a massive shortage of blank ammunition in France, the bulk of the stocks having been despatched to Afghanistan for use by their national contingent over there. We would not, after all, want these brave peacekeepers to get hurt by doing anything so dangerous as carrying live ammunition.

If this might be considered a tad unfair, it is somehow preferable to the official explanation being touted, that the soldier who loaded the live ammunition did so "by mistake".

If that is the level of incompetence in the French Army – in what was, in fact, an elite unit – then it rather puts into perspective Sarkozy's ambitions for an EU Army - especially as the French, like the rest of their European "colleagues" seem to have trouble dipping in their pockets to fund their militaries.

In truth, the greatest threat that a European Army might present to the enemy is that they risk dying of laughter - especially when the "colleagues" get to work on our military equipment. Unfortunately, that is not a luxury those whom they purport to protect can enjoy.

COMMENT THREAD

As my co-editor returns to the fold, after her jaunt to Paris – a city I regard with some disfavour, having had my laptop stolen there – the "colleagues", or some of them, are set to take over.

Courtesy of Nicola Smith in yesterday's Sunday Times, we learn that the European Peoples Party (EPP) – of which the Conservative pigs MEPs are members – is set to start work in the capital, attending some important "study days", at the minuscule cost of some £200,000 to the grateful taxpayers.

For those doubters amongst you, these "study days" can be of considerable value. In my days in the "heart of darkness", I recall one which involved my spending the best part of a day perched on the top of a tree, deep in a forest on the fringes of the Pyrenees. There, I was forced to imbibe considerable draughts of local wine and consume industrial quantities of paté foie gras – all in the company of a group of heavily armed Basque gunmen (don't ask!).

Not for our EPP pigs MEPs however are there such sybaritic activities. Instead, they are going to have to suffer a dinner at the Palais de Versailles and a champagne boat trip down the Seine, on Le Paquebot (billed as an "immense floating palace"), the largest boat available at the exclusive Yachts de Paris tour company.

To add to their hardship, the group will be limited to a cocktail lunch of 22 hot and cold culinary specialities created by Jean-Pierre Vigato, a top Paris chef. Champagne, French wines and liqueurs are also on the menu. Those invited have been told: "you may wish to bring a sun hat", illustrating the rigours that they will have to face.

They will also have a two-hour lunch hosted by France's ruling party, the Popular Movement Union (UMP), at the 18th-century residence of the president of the national assembly, and a drinks reception hosted at the Elysée Palace by Nicolas Sarkozy, all while having to slum it at the distinctly down-market Hôtel de Lassay (pictured).

And, for such great service, the pigs MEPs in the 200-strong group from the EU parliament will only be paid their daily attendance allowances of £225 per day (on top of the normal salary and expenses), to recompense them for their hardship.

To reduce that hardship, the group will be accompanied by a salaried official from the parliament who will take with him the official register, sparing the pigs MEPs the hard labour of attending an office in the parliament building where the media might witness their signing on.

Given that our good and faithful pigs servants are displaying such diligence and devotion to public service, I am sure that none of us would dream of asking whether the money was well spent. That, of course, would be "impertinence".

COMMENT THREAD

Well not all that prodigal really. There are certainly no expectations of fatted calves. While I’ve been away the boss seems to have got down to some serious work on what is wrong with the situation in Afghanistan. As our readers know, when he does serious work it is awesomely serious. So, the promised discussion on the future of the blog has been postponed again. Fear not. It will happen.

When I told the boss that I had no intention of writing about my trip to Paris, he expressed surprise and displeasure in equal measures. So, I feel I ought to put together a couple of paragraphs on the subject.

What can I say about Paris that will be of interest to our readers? It is, of course, as beautiful as ever and as much fun as ever if you are prepared to be adventurous – not too adventurous just a little bit. Which is of no interest to anyone.

However, a change noted since my last visit a few years ago is the paucity of European flags despite the approaching French Presidency of the EU. It used to be that every single official building – and there are very many of them – would fly the golden stars on the sky blue background next to the tricoleur. No longer. With very few exceptions they fly the tricoleur and nothing else. I wonder why.

Other good things to note: the transport is cheap, clean and efficient. The streets are clean. The people of Paris and their offspring appear to have no need to throw rubbish on the ground either on the streets or in the Metro. Very curious behaviour to those of us who are used to the filth of London and other English cities and towns. I wonder what’s behind it.

Parisians smoke a great deal though they are no longer allowed to do so inside public places. So they do it in the street or at the outside tables of cafes and restaurants. Curiously enough, the ban on interior smoking was introduced on January 1 of this year. Normally, these bans are introduced in the summer to acclimatize people by the time autumn and winter come round. The French government ignored such niceties and it seems to have worked, though, naturally enough the situation is different in the summer.

The people of Paris seem quite happy to sit in bars or cafes for a while, nursing a drink or two, then order food or go and eat somewhere else. They appear to have no need to drink until they are completely smashed and need to pass out or vomit on the streets or the Metro. Very odd. I wonder why they behave that way.

American tourists are back in large numbers despite the weakness of the dollar and the strength of the euro, not to mention the ever predicted American economic collapse. Perhaps, it is the people who have been saying consistently that the difficulties are there but the United States is a long way from an economic melt-down who are being proved right.

Paris is, apart from the transport, expensive and VAT is at 19.6%, which is no joke.

There are more bookshops, selling new or second-hand books, in every arrondissement than in the whole of London. Very few of them are chains.

There are, however, many difficulties that one can see or hear from people who live there. The country’s unemployment has been going down but much of that is because of the continuing exodus of economically active young and not so young people.

The problem of the banlieu has not gone away though President Sarkozy has set up a commission to investigate it and to come up with some solutions. Incidentally, I was told by several people that his marriage to Carla Bruni is probably the most popular thing he has done, which is not quite the way our journalists have been writing about it.

For all of that, you can go through much of Paris without ever realizing that a very large proportion of its population originates from North Africa. Jobs are still not available to the people from those housing estates and the whole situation remains fraught, though Parisians (and this was proved to me by at least one conversation I had with a born and bred Parisian) tend to have an out of sight out of mind attitude, until, one assumes, the riots start again, especially if they come closer to the centre.

History tells one that riots in the old working class or, before that, artisan class faubourgs, such as the Faubourg St Antoine or St Denis or St Martin have no effect until the people march into the centre and build barricades there. It may yet happen. Of course, one effect might be the odd slaughter by heavily armed police and other forces, as has happened before in Parisian history, but I think even the French government might find it hard to get away with that nowadays.

After our despairing commentary earlier this week, Booker returns to the fray with a vengeance in today's column, firing a 24-gun broadside against the wind farm madness.

This is the policy which that fool Gordon Brown launched on Thursday, calling it "the greatest revolution in our energy policy since the advent of nuclear power", estimated to cost us £100 billion or thereabouts for the luxury of having the lights go out.

Not least of the madness is that the intermittency of the wind means that we will need considerably more wind turbine capacity to reach the government's mythical figures than has been allowed for. According to Booker's calculations, to contribute 10GW which the system would have to produce would need 30GW of capacity. This would require up to twice as many turbines as ministers are talking about.

It is here that there is the great disconnect. To meet the target, we would have to erect new turbines at a rate of more than four every working day between now and 2020, two thirds of which would be offshore.

Yet, as Booker points out, there are only five of the giant crane barges and jack-up ships in the entire world that are capable of erecting the monster turbines that are proposed. Then, weather conditions are sufficiently favourable for them to operate only 50 percent of the time.

At upwards of £60 million each, they are required on station – weather permitting – for 24 to 36 hours to install foundations and a period of about 24 hours to erect each turbine.

To satisfy UK demand – to include transit times, replenishment and refitting – we would need a fleet of upwards of 30, at a cost of £1.8 billion, for which no provision whatsoever has been made. Nor is it likely that any private sector business would risk the investment as the relatively short span of work would not be long enough to recoup the capital outlay.

Yet, in the massed ranks of the media and the political classes, not one of them seem to have cottoned on that the policy is not only mad, but unachievable. And this is only the half of it.

Another report in the Sunday Telegraph tells us that, "wind power would be too unreliable to meet Britain's electricity needs." Confirming what we already knew, wind patterns around the country mean turbines will fail to produce enough power at times of high demand.

As turbines often fail to produce enough electricity, dropping on occasion to 4 per cent of their maximum output, backup fossil fuel plants would need to be switched on and off to make up the shortfall in supplies - a highly inefficient process that would reduce any carbon savings from wind farms.

The report retails calculations based on wind speeds and electricity demand from the past six years to work out what impact 25 GW - about 16 percent of Britain's needs - would have had on the national grid if it had been supplied by wind farms.

The results show wind is highly volatile. In January 2005, for example, wind speeds varied so much that demand on conventional plants would have varied from 5.5GW to 56GW. In that month, a 1,000MW fossil fuel plant would have had to come on and offline a total of 23 times to make up the shortfall. At 6pm on 2 February 2006 - the point of peak electricity demand for the whole year - wind farms would have been unable to provide any power at all.

Amazingly, the response of the British Wind Energy Association, representing the wind industry, is to lie. "All the research we are aware of shows wind farms produce electricity for something like 80 to 95 per cent of the time," a spokesman says. "When you look at the UK system as a whole, there is electricity coming from wind 100 percent of the time. There is no moment in time when the output of the pool falls to zero."

That, as we say, is a lie, in absolute and relative terms. Even when they are producing electricity in low wind conditions, the output is a fraction of the rated capacity.

What better a symbol of Mr Brown's broken policy, therefore, than the picture a the top of this post, a shattered turbine pictured two days ago in Sheffield University Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, near the city's Parkway link to the M1.

The problem for us all though is that it is going to be Mr Cameron's government that is most likely to be implementing this policy, and he is just as entrapped in the madness as our current prime minister. In the fullness of time, when the lights do go out, he is going to have to stand at the despatch box, telling the nation what he is going to do. Like Nelson, I suspect that he will be saying, "I see no ships".

COMMENT THREAD

click here to go to the blogThe latest part of our ongoing series "Winning the war" is now posted. Entitled "Hearts and mines", in it we look at the mistaken – and damaging belief that our military can prevail by pursuing a policy known as "WHAM" – winning hearts and minds. But, as we conclude, in a hostile environment, our military struggles for the "hearts" of the Afghan population and, in return, they get "mines". The strangest thing is that anyone ever thought it would be different.

By coincidence, there is a letter from Dr Rahim Sherzoy, Ambassador to Afghanistan, in today's Sunday Telegraph, responding to a news review feature which asked whether the British forces' tactics in Afghanistan were right or wrong.

Sherzoy suggests that the feature was "mostly one-sided", stating that "it is important to underline that the Taleban is not an Afghan phenomenon, but was imposed from Pakistan with the support of some elements from other states." He then goes on to write:

From the start, Nato was prevented from achieving its security objectives because it did not have a coherent strategy to go after the hard-core Taleban or a unifying programme to create jobs and address poverty. There was a lack of commitment to create an alternative livelihood for farmers and land owners to discourage poppy growth.
This, by some happy chance, is exactly the conclusion we have reached.

Read more on Defence of the Realm.

"A Europe of results is a political vision based on constructive pragmatism: to address the concerns of our citizens," says EU president José Manuel Barroso - meaning let's find something that will attract popularity and we'll do it – irrespective of the consequences.

This was very much the driver behind the EU's cynical intervention in the mobile phone market where, looking for something that would give them an instant popularity boost, they fixed upon "roaming charges". Bringing the often very high prices down, they reasoned, would provide an opportunity for endless publicity and self-congratulation about the value of "Europe".

However, having interfered for entirely political reasons and thereby disrupted the complex – and not entirely functional – mobile market, the commission has introduced even more complications and distortions than already existed. But, not knowing when to leave well enough alone, that has provoked an further round of interference, this time on what are known as "termination charges".

This has triggered anguished howls of protest from the industry, covered widely in today's media, not least in The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent - the latter offering by far the most comprehensive report.

The upshot is that the commission's latest round of interference looks set to cost the industry some £80 billion, forcing it to make substantial changes to its business model – the net effect of which will be to price some of the lower-end users out of the market.

In pursuit of its politically motivated intervention, therefore, the commission is doing untold damage, leaving behind it an even more complicated, less efficient and less accessible mobile phone system – all for the sake of increasing the profile of the EU as an organisation which addresses "the concerns of our citizens".

Needless, to say, which it comes to addressing the real concerns of citizens – like the total lack of democracy in the ramming through of its constitutional Lisbon treaty, the commission is nowhere to be seen. Its "Europe of results", therefore, does not comprise anything more than a cynical marketing device which, even now, is beginning to backfire on them – as the hostile headlines are illustrating.

The only lasting results, it seems, that the commission can ever achieve, is to take something – anything – and make it even worse.

COMMENT THREAD

click here to go to the blogIn our continuing series on "winning the war" in Afghanistan, we have crashed into the political realities of government aid and protectionism, as practised by the EU and the US. Earlier in the series, we asserted that, in order to succeed, "any military activity must be closely integrated with, and responsive to, a cocktail of high policy, other agency activities and government actions."

By the same token, "high policy, other agency activities and government actions" must be closely integrated with, and responsive to military activities and needs. What we are learning from what has become a journey of discovery is that they are not. In fact, so far do they deviate from what is absolutely necessary, the indications are that, whatever they do – short of some rather unorthodox action - the military are unlikely to succeed.

Read more on Defence of the Realm. For links to all the posts in the series, see here.

COMMENT THREAD

Bruno Waterfield adds some background to that delightful video on the pigs MEPs with their snouts in the trough signing their expenses register at 7 am to get their daily attendance allowances, even though they then rush off home.

We are told that the video, posted on You-Tube, was taken down from the European server, shortly after the link was sent to that arch-deacon of rectitude, Labour MEP Richard Corbett. We don't know how true that is, but it is one of those things that should be, even if it isn't. The video, however, is still on the US server, which is why it can be accessed from the link above.

What struck me was the sequence shortly after the introduction, when one MEP, asked if he was going to sign the register, retorts: "it is not your business!" There we have it – an elected representative, enriching himself from the public purse, who tells a member of the media that it is none of his business.

Equally instructive is the German Green MEP, Hiltrud Breyer, who crashes into the wall in her haste to get away from the cameras, then declaring the media attention as "impertinence" as she retreats behind the closing doors of the lift.

That really tells you all you need to know about the "project", especially when the commentator wryly comments that the film, "... clearly demonstrates how nervous some politicians become when they are being scrutinised, in particular their 'gravy train'".

Meanwhile, Bruno tells us in his paper that Giscard d'Estaing has been telling the Irish Times that Ireland's referendum rejection would not kill the Treaty, despite a legal requirement of unanimity from all the EU's 27 member states.

"We are evolving towards majority voting because if we stay with unanimity, we will do nothing," he says, effectively endorsing the view prevailing amongst the "colleagues" that referendums can be ignored.

This, of course, comes as absolutely no surprise, even if it coincides with the Austrian chancellor telling his people he'll seek a referendum over future changes to European Union treaties – but not this one. Is this not rather like the Conservative pledge?

However, we now live in a "post-democratic society" which means that, increasingly, as their lack of legitimacy becomes ever more apparent, our ruling classes will have to resort to ever more violence to force obedience. In the way of things, the people will eventually have to reciprocate, and so the spiral downwards will continue.

And one stepping stone on that path is "that video", which tells us, with crystal clarity what our political classes think of us - "it is not your business!"

COMMENT THREAD


There is a technical word for this, but I can't quite put my finger on it!

COMMENT THREAD

Job advert in The Daily Telegraph for a new chief executive of the NSPCC – a cool £150k. Do not apply unless you have "… a sophisticated understanding of how to grow a values based organisation". And, of course, you must be a Europhiliac.

COMMENT THREAD

Volcanoes under the Arctic icecap (and here) - has to be global warming!


We have written about wind farms and the fatuity of the EU's renewable energy plans so many times (spool down) on this blog that we are in danger of boring even ourselves into a catatonic trance. How many times can you repeat that the entire policy is utter madness, complete insanity, a breathtaking departure from reality?

Well, with slightly more patience and endurance than I am able to muster, Booker says it again in The Daily Mail today, telling us, "Why spending £100bn on windfarms to please the EU is Labour's greatest act of lunacy."

But, as he observes, "…right now it seems not the slightest chink of reality is breaking in on this madness. Our opposition parties seem just as much in its grip as those who rule us in Westminster and Brussels."

And indeed that is the case. The Conservatives are as much in the grip of this collective madness as our current governments, the one in Whitehall and the one in Brussels.

Like the insanity of the tower blocks of the '60s – and much like the madness of the 17th Century when apparently sane men branded innocent women as witches and burnt them to death, with the approval of the communities in which they resided – this particular brand of madness will have to work its way through the collective consciousness.

In due course, we will emerge from it and survey our recent past, wondering as we do with the gaunt wrecks of a once proud vision that we now dismissively call "tower blocks", how we could have been so taken in by what was so obviously an utterly foolhardy obsession.

Until then, we are in the grip of what nineteenth Century writer, Gustave Le Bon called the "psychology of the crowd". It is beyond logic, beyond reason, beyond argument. There is no antidote, no cure. Reason, particularly, is no answer.

We can only watch, shake our heads and wonder at the stupidity of our fellow man. And when it passes – as it will – "everyone" will agree that it was madness. By then, of course, we will be in the grip of a new obsession. I guess it is called the human condition.

COMMENT THREAD



A German view of the pigs at the trough.

We had plenty of evidence that, prior to the Irish referendum, and more generally until the constitutional Lisbon treaty was ratified, the "colleagues" were keeping a low profile.

Had the Irish voted the "right" way, we could have been assured that the tempo of EU activities would have increased or, at least, become more visible. But, with the "Irish question" still in the balance, and the "colleagues" struggling to work out what to do next, the lid has been clamped down tight on publicity and new initiatives.

We are very much back to the situation where the EU commission, in particular, has donned its cloak of invisibility. Comment has virtually dried up and EU-related news emanating from Brussels is down to a bare minimum.

However, in the commentary front, there is still the occasional aftershock, such as the one from Anatole Kaletsky in The Times, rather appropriately headed: "The Ireland 'no' vote: a big earthquake".

Despite the protestations of the European elites, Kaletsky says, the vote changes the whole future of the EU. The British media and political classes lost all interest in the Irish "no" vote within days of this astonishing event, our man adds – and indeed they did. That itself was astonishing – although it should not have been.

But Kaletsky does think the word "astonishing" is a fair adjective to describe the Irish "no" vote – "this overwhelming democratic reaction to the political direction of Europe, by three million people who have risen, in a single generation, from penury to become the Continent's wealthiest nation, as a direct result of joining the EU".

He continues:

Such "ingratitude" by the Irish people towards the European political elites may strike us in Britain as perfectly natural, since it corresponds so closely to the way most people here feel. Moreover, all three of our main political parties seem to believe they have a mutual interest in treating this as a case of "small earthquake, not many hurt".

In continental capitals, by contrast, the Irish "no" is seen as a tectonic shift that could transform the landscape of Europe for decades to come. Certainly the Irish "no" has triggered much more intense debate from Brussels, Berlin and Paris to Prague, Warsaw and Moscow than it has in London.

The continental interpretation is likely to prove more prescient than the studied indifference of the Westminster Village. First, The "no" vote presents Europe with a deeply embarrassing political dilemma.
At the very least, the Irish vote, Kaletsky opines, "will deprive the EU's continuing political development of all democratic legitimacy. Anyone who claims that the EU has any interest in reducing its 'democratic deficit' will in future be laughed at." We are then told:

However European leaders respond, the Irish "no" will be seen as a historic confirmation of the anti-democratic nature of the EU project. If the EU political project is now abandoned, it will be a testament to its repeated rejection by voters across Europe. And if the project continues despite the Irish objection, it will be final proof that EU leaders don't care what voters think.
Kaletsky continues in this vein, eventually coming to the conclusion that a bullying the Irish voters into changing their minds would result not in Ireland's expulsion, but in the break-up of the EU.

That is not a price that either the Germans or the French would pay for the right to have a president of Europe, he says. "So time is on the side of the Irish in their dispute with the Euro-federalist bullies. All the Irish have to do is stick to their guns and keep talking. Luckily the Irish are good at both."

It's a view – and the few left on this planet that are still interested in this subject could have a good argument about it. But, for the moment, the EU is not going to fuel that debate. When it comes to omerta it could teach the Mafia a thing or two.

When is it going to break cover?

COMMENT THREAD

So, Stuart Wheeler has lost his battle in the High Court to prevent the ratification of the constitutional Lisbon treaty without a referendum.

Jonathan Sumption QC, appearing for the government, had argued that the case was "politics dressed up as law," while an important part of the government's case was that the Lisbon treaty is different from the previously-proposed European Constitution on which Tony Blair had promised a popular vote.

It seems that the judges agreed on the “politics” issue, declaring in respect of the promise of a referendum:

The subject-matter, nature and context of a promise of this kind place it in the realm of politics, not of the courts, and the question whether the government should be held to such a promise is a political rather than a legal matter. In particular, in this case the decision on the holding of a referendum lay with Parliament, and it was for Parliament to decide whether the government should be held to any promise previously made.
Interestingly, the Court also ruled on the comparison between the Lisbon treaty and the EU constitution as was, (see para 37 of the judgement), looking at "…the specific question [of] whether the differences are sufficiently material to warrant a different decision on the holding of a referendum."

"In this case the government has decided that they are," the two judges, Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Mackay, assert. “We doubt whether the correctness of such an assessment is a justiciable issue at all." They continue:

At best, it is a matter to be approached on a Wednesbury basis; and on that basis we are far from persuaded that the assessment is an unreasonable one. We reach that conclusion despite the fact that, on their face, the reasons originally given by the then Prime Minister for the holding of a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty (myths about Europe) are to a large extent capable of applying also to the Lisbon Treaty. There was still proper scope, in our judgement, for a different assessment in relation to the Lisbon Treaty.
This is the cruel reality of judicial review. It was once explained to me by a leading counsel, when I was engaged in proceedings of my own, that the government is entitled to make the wrong decision – as long as the proper procedures are followed. The quality of the decision cannot be challenged, only the means by which it was arrived at – that is the essence of the Wednesbury dictum.

The barrier then set is extremely high. In effect, I was told, the decision would have to be "barking mad" before a judge would be prepared to set it aside. If there as scope, as the judges have ruled here, for "a different assessment", then the benefit of doubt goes to the government.

Wheeler has been refused leave to appeal, but that does not end it. He can apply to the Appeal Court to have that refusal set-aside, thus allowing him to mount an appeal, and he has indicated that he intends to do just that. His chances of success are slender though, but you never know.

COMMENT THREAD

Having laboured long and hard, Part IV of the treatise is up on Defence of the Realm (spool down), with the fifth and final part half-written and due to go up later today.

That makes for the longest post we've ever put up on that site, a complete negation of the whole idea of blogging, which works best with short pieces, posted frequently. Thus, when it is finished, I'll turn it into a .pdf and upload it onto our server. I'll then clear the piece from the blog and leave behind a link for those who want to read the whole work.

As for the rest of the world, when in the grip of an obsession, it passes you by. Picked up from The Daily Mail though was a feature article having a go at wind farms, based on a report by energy analyst Tony Lodge. He concludes: "Greater reliance on wind power could lead to electricity supply disruptions if the wind does not blow, blows too hard or does not blow where wind farms are located."

However, we are told, the wind industry dismissed the criticisms: "The National Grid has said many times they can cope with the variability of wind," said Chris Tomlinson of the British Wind Energy Association. "Never in history has there not been wind blowing somewhere in the UK."

Err….. have they seen this?

Normal service will resume tomorrow.

COMMENT THREAD

There has not been a great deal appearing on this blog that emanated from Shepherds Bush but I doubt if that has been a problem - the boss has been very active. Now there will be even lighter posting till the end of the week when I shall sit down and finish all those half-written long postings. Yes, that is a threat.

Later this morning I shall take the Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris (the one in France not the one in Texas) and shall not be back till Saturday evening. Internet access permitting I shall post the odd Letter from Paris and shall bring back lots of nice pictures. (I hope.)

In the meantime, enjoy this excellent article by Fouad Ajami on anti-Americanism.

Reuters reports the "European Union's foreign policy chief" saying that Zimbabwe's elections have become a travesty of democracy and the withdrawal of leading opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai is understandable.

"Javier Solana ... considers that the withdrawal of Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai ... is understandable, given the unacceptable systematic campaign of violence, obstruction and intimidation lead by the Zimbabwean authorities, which has continued for several weeks," Solana's office said in a statement.

And Mr Solana was elected when?

A fascinating piece in the Irish Independent suggests that the Irish government need not, after all, have held a referendum on the constitutional Lisbon treaty.

This is from Charles Lysaght, a former adviser on European law at the Department of Foreign Affairs, who argues that the government would have been better off taking its chances with ratification, leaving it to the objectors to challenge their action in the courts if they wanted to have a referendum.

The background to "that referendum", it seems, is cloaked in more than a little bit of mystery, starting during the debates in the Dail on the proposed amendment of the constitution that was put to the people in the recent referendum.

It was then that Fine Gael MP, Tom Hayes, asked why it was necessary to amend the constitution in order to ratify the treaty – whence the only explanation that he got from government spokesmen was that the Attorney General said so.

Writes Lysaght, it would have been interesting to know the exact advice of the Attorney General, in particular, whether it went further than expressing doubts as to the constitutional validity of ratification without a covering referendum.

Why this might be significant rests with the original judgement in 1987 of the Supreme Court on a previous amending treaty. Then, Chief Justice Thomas Finlay stated that the authorisation given to the State to join the European Communities (as the European Union was then described) was also an authorisation to join in amendments of treaties "so long as such amendments did not alter the essential scope or objectives of the communities".

Thus, Lysaght thinks that it was at least arguable that the amendments to the treaties of the European Union in the constitutional Lisbon treaty fell within this description. He offers some legal background to support his argument and also notes that the decision of the Supreme Court - which was reached by a narrow majority of three to two overruling a unanimous High Court judgement of a three-judge High Court - has been much criticised and would probably not be followed in a future case.

It is all uncertain legal ground, adds Lysaght, also asserting that the political ground offered no certainty. It is on this basis that he believes the government would have done better to proceed to ratification of the Lisbon treaty and left it to the objectors to challenge their action in the courts.

Now here is a thought. If the "colleagues" are able to come to an agreement with Mr Cowen about a number of (non binding) declarations which appeared to settle issues raised by the "no" campaign, could the Irish government then argue that a second referendum was not necessary in order to ratify the treaty? If they are thinking what Lysaght is thinking, they might be mad enough to try it.

And if then challenged in the Supreme Court, what then?

COMMENT THREAD

We did it on 23 April. Today, you can read all about it here.

COMMENT THREAD

click here to go to the blogThe last fortnight has been an unhappy one for British forces in Afghanistan. It is unsurprising, therefore, that there should have been some reflective pieces in the weekend newspapers. We have selected four - summarising them, adding our own commentary and observations, and then developed ideas on "winning the war".

Parts I & II are posted. Part III is to follow. You may find them of interest.

Read more on Defence of the Realm

… was putting two boxes on the ballot paper. One for "yes" and one for "no". Apparently, there should have been just one box -- vote Yes. Any other result is, in some unexplained way, illegitimate.

The result must be scrubbed, the electorate must be made feel guilty, threatened and bullied. Eventually, they may understand that in our Brave New Europe, the box that says "no" is merely for cosmetic purposes."

A trenchant commentary from Gene Kerrigan in The Irish Independent.

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Today is the anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 and I thought I'd interrupt the flow of the narrative on this blog by posting this rather curious image of Operation Barbarossa.

Of course, it was not Russia the Germans bombed at 4 am or drove their motorcycle and tanks across but, in the first place, eastern Poland that had been annexed by the Soviet Union a year an half previously.

Stalin, reportedly, refused to believe that his chum Hitler had let him down. Then he panicked and, it seems, the entire Politburo left Moscow, not to return till early July. The arming of Moscow's population was forbidden even when the Germans rolled across relentlessly, reaching the outskirts by early December. After all, it was not entirely certain on whom the people might turn their guns.

On July 3 Stalin made his first speech on radio and called the people of the Soviet Union not comarades but his brothers and sisters. That, naturally enough, induced real panic. Things must be bad, people reasoned.

In the end Montgomery's dictum of the three rules of war being not to invade Russia, repeated three times, turned out to be absolutely correct, though it took a long time and the losses were unspeakably high, not least because of Stalin's policies. Just one thing about that dictum: invading Russia from the west has never been a good idea, with the Poles being the most successful in the seventeenth century. Invading from the east, on the other hand, or the south-east worked very well in the past. Something to be pondered over.

Without let-up, the "colleagues" are beavering away in the background, determined to unpick the Irish referendum result. And it is now becoming evident that the repeat referendum scenario – the one most people thought impossible, including this blog – is the front runner in the race to ratify the treaty.

This much has been picked up by The Sunday Times which effectively confirms that the game plan is to deconstruct the objections aired during the referendum campaign and neutralise them.

The paper cites a chilling observation from an unnamed "senior Irish official" who says, "The 'no' campaign will be picked off one by one. Everyone has a price."

Here, although not specifically mentioned, looms large the name of Declan Ganley – the star of the "no" campaign. Although being hailed for his victory, this man is most decidedly not a eurosceptic and the "colleagues" must at least be wondering what it will take to turn this man and get him to support a "yes" vote in a second referendum.

As it stands, the "colleagues" have very little time. They have to get the Irish ratification in the bag before the June 2009 euro-elections, to stop them becoming an unofficial Europe-wide referendum on the treaty. Eurosceptic parties making substantial gains on the back of anti-Lisbon sentiment would be a truly disastrous outcome for them.

Finding the right buttons to press is not going to be easy. One which seems to be taking on some prominence is a threat to block more enlargement unless the treaty comes into force – starting with Croatia. This was aired by Sarkozy at the European Council and is picked up by The Sunday Telegraph, which has Sarkozy being accused of "blackmail".

The trouble with this is that – if anything – blocking further enlargement could well be popular with the Irish, who have taken on a considerable number of east and central European migrants following the last enlargement. It is significant that the areas of Dublin which have been most affected by this surge are those which voted strongly against the treaty.

Nevertheless, the "colleagues" will continue to chip away at the problem until they – or the Irish – come up with the "right" answer, all of which has the Sunday Times leader railing that there can only be one response. "A 'no' vote next time has to be even more decisive than earlier this month. Anything less would be a travesty," it writes.

However, we are dealing here with creatures of the night, who will stop at nothing (until the sun rises). Rightly, therefore, does Booker observe in his column today that the EU leaders and Robert Mugabe have something in common. When a vote goes against them, their instinct is not to accept it but to cast round for how to get the decision reversed.

Our money is still on the "colleagues" rigging the question in such a way as to imply Ireland's withdrawal from the EU in the event of a second "no", a strategy they hope, might frighten off Declan Ganley.

Whatever transpires, the events of the last few weeks have not been without their value. As Booker notes, they have shown that the EU is not just undemocratic but actively anti-democratic.

In terms of popular consent, he writes, this is as bad as Mugabe's determination to cling onto his power - and the haste with which Gordon Brown last week rushed through the last stages of Britain's ratification of the treaty in time to win the approval of his colleagues at Friday's European Council was as degrading as the rest of his part in this shabby story.

But, as they crawl under their stones, ready as the sun goes down for a fresh assault on what remains of our democracy, the last thing that troubles the "colleagues" is a trivial thing like consent. These creatures of the night have no time for such niceties.

COMMENT THREAD

Some thoughts on the new paper published by the Centre for Social Cohesion over on the BrugesGroupBlog.

It is rather ironic that the "ratification instrument" – the document which the British government will formally deposit with the Italian government to complete the ratification of the constitutional Lisbon treaty – will be drafted on goatskin parchment.

Such are the recriminations flying about in the aftermath of the Irish referendum, though, that – as one of our forum commenters put it - the skin surely came from a scapegoat.

First off the mark, last Thursday, was Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who complained that the unwelcome (to the "colleagues") result was down to the member states, and the "Politicians give the impression that Europe is being built against their will."

He was followed by Sarkozy during the latter stages of the European Council meeting on Friday, who took a tilt at EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson for upsetting the Irish over the WTO negotiations.

Then it was Silvio Berlusconi's turn. He accused EU commission officials of "talking too much" to the public in the member states. "The forecasts and recommendations that the commissioners give, and which appear in the newspapers every other day," he said, "provoke negative reactions among the citizens of the EU, who see (the commission) as a body that imposes constraints and creates problems."

Warming to his theme, he added, "Moreover, they create difficulties for governments because they offer ammunition to opposition parties, whether of the right or of the left, to criticize the government."

To add to the discord, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano (pictured) has joined in, siding with the Juncker brigade by accusing member state governments of using the European Union as a scapegoat to hide their own faults.

"Too many governments, have in fact, hidden the positions they have taken in (Brussels), using Europe - and in particular the European Commission, 'the bureaucracy of Brussels', as a scapegoat to cover their responsibilities and inadequacies," he said in a speech to a European conference in France.

These remarks have been seen as a veiled swipe at Berlusconi, but Napolitano also has general criticisms of all member states, declaring that their governments were not persuading their citizens of the need for a stronger and more united Europe.

Far from taking a hint from Berlusconi about "talking too much", Barroso has been unable to resist the temptation to hit back, stating that, "It's not with populist slogans that we will succeed in renewing confidence among European citizens."

Barroso's view is that those who accused the commission of a "democratic deficit" were just plain wrong. "There is no point in falling into the populist temptation of depicting the European Commission as the expression of bureaucracy and technocracy," he stated.

Not content with that, he then put himself firmly in the Juncker/ Napolitano camp by declaring, "It is not possible to criticise Brussels from Monday to Saturday, and then on Sunday, ask your citizens to give a favourable vote for Europe."

Meanwhile, The Irish Times is blaming the "disastrous 'yes' campaign" for the failure to deliver the (scape) goatskin, bringing us to today when we wait agog for the next instalment of the blame game.

Nobody yet has blamed global warming – which has to be a first – although there is still time yet.

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Tom Wise, elected as a UKIP MEP*, was arrested last night on suspicion of obtaining money by deception. We understand he spent the night in custody and, after helping Bedfordshire Police with their inquiries, is currently on police bail.

The investigation is being supported both by the EU parliament authorities and OLAF – the EU's "anti-fraud" office - and is believed to be part of more wide-ranging enquiries into the affairs of MEPs in UKIP and their parliamentary Independence and Democracy group. The veteran Danish former MEP and group leader, Jens-Peter Bonde, has been mentioned in connection with these.

One subject of the "broader inquiries" was identified by this blog in February 2007 and, while the attentions of Mr Plod are undoubtedly well deserved, and there is clearly a case to answer, the timing of Wise’s arrest and the fact that other UKIP MEPs are also under investigation is, to say the very least, unfortunate.

With less than a year to go before the 2009 euro-elections – when UKIP might have been expected to do well – there is the high possibility of a run of negative and highly undesirable publicity. Even if not actually intended, this may have the effect of damaging UKIP's electoral prospects.

On the other hand, so many MEPs from other parties also have their snouts in the trough, that the action being taken against UKIP and its allies may appear to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the entire eurosceptic campaign. In the case of the odious Mr Wise, this will not be true - even if UKIP is unavoidably caught up in the fall-out.

* Wise's current status remains obscure. Although the parliamentary leader Nigel Farage has issued a declaration that Tom Wise has had the "whip removed", there is an ongoing dispute as to whether the MEP group has the authority to do so. In the interim, Wise continues to maintain his website as a UKIP MEP and the EU parliament currently lists him as a UKIP MEP. Wise is still a fully paid-up member of UKIP, having renewed his subscription earlier this year. To date, there has been no official announcement of disciplinary proceedings being lodged against him.

COMMENT THREAD

As do birds of a feather flock together, so does big business love the EU. Predictably, therefore, we see ritual wailing in The Financial Times as a group of bloated bureaucracies and rip-off merchants, complain that the Irish "no" vote is "bad for business".

"Business" in this case is Siemens, Austria's OMV and Adidas, and their chief executives are telling the FT that the "no" vote weakens the EU on the global stage against the Middle East, Russia and Asian countries. They are thus "worried" about how it would affect Europe’s ability to compete against the US and Asia.

What worries us, though, is the commentary introduced by the journalist responsible for the story - Richard Milne. He writes:

European companies are often sceptical about the work of the EU, believing it can create unnecessary bureaucracy and that it lacks relevancy for them. But the treaty aims to streamline the European Commission and provide stronger leadership with more effective foreign policy. Companies are worried that in the scramble for natural resources, particularly oil, Europe risks being in a weaker position compared with the negotiating power of China or the US.
In that one paragraph there are so many false assumptions that one could virtually write a thesis refuting them. But, for the FT, they are simply the received wisdom and waved through without so much as a raised eyebrow.

However, it comes to something when Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, chief executive of OMV, the Austrian oil and gas company, feels able to say, "I am quite disappointed by the decision of the Irish people," while Peter Löscher, head of Siemens, Europe's largest engineering group, glibly talks of seeing "a strong EU as very important" and complaining that "it isn't at the moment."

Do we really care that Herbert Hainer, head of Adidas - the world’s second largest sporting goods group – thinks that: "This [the referendum result] is definitely a setback for the European Union," adding, that the lack of a strong Europe would hurt business "in competition with the US market and with the Asian market, or China in the future"?

But, undoubtedly, we should care when, according to the FT the (unnamed) chairman of a large German financial services company says, "This has to be the last time a small country can upset things like this."

Not only do birds of a feather flock together – they think together and come up with the same answers. And they are not to our advantage.

COMMENT THREAD

To mark the start of France's six month presidency of the EU, Sarkozy has ordered the Eiffel Tower to be lit up in blue with yellow stars, symbolising the EU flag. The "spectacle" is to last two months from 30 June, requiring eighty giant projectors on the ground and 100 more on the tower.

This contrasts with the tower's standard orange-gold night-time lighting, introduced on New Year's Eve in 1985. However, blue lighting to celebrate the EU has been used before. The Eiffel Tower was turned blue on 9 May 2006 (pictured), to mark the 20th celebration of Europe Day. On that occasion it did not boast the ring of stars.

How ordinary Parisians feel about this – much less Frenchmen – has not been recorded, but a few may understand the deeper symbolism.

Built between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle, a World Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution, the tower has a long association with national resistance.

By the early Twentieth Century, some years after it had supposed to be dismantled after its 20-year building permit had expired, it had become so useful for communication purposes that it was allowed to remain. The military used it in 1914 to dispatch Parisian taxis to the front line during the First Battle of the Marne, and it therefore became a victory statue of that battle.

During the Second World War, it acquired a new symbolism when, upon the Nazi occupation of Paris, in 1940, the lift cables were cut by the French so that Adolf Hitler would have to climb the steps to the summit. The parts to repair them were allegedly impossible to obtain because of the war.

Nazi soldiers had to climb to the top to hoist the swastika, but the flag was so large it blew away just a few hours later – much to the delight of the crowds - and had to be replaced by a smaller one.

When visiting Paris, Hitler chose to stay on the ground, giving rise to the legend that Hitler had conquered France but not the Eiffel Tower. Then, in 1944, a Frenchman scaled the tower to hang the French flag. In the same year, when the city was liberated, the lifts were miraculously found to be working normally only hours after Allied troops had entered, thus cementing the reputation of the tower as a symbol of resistance.

It was for that very reason that, earlier, the Nazis had gone to such lengths to ensure their flag flew from the top of the tower. And, when Hitler came to the capital in 1940, telling Speer that, "It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris," he made sure he was photographed against the background of the tower.

Now Sarkozy is following in the footsteps of Hitler by employing this symbol of France as the backdrop for the propaganda of an alien power, he is, perhaps unwittingly, acknowledging his own subjugation.

COMMENT THREAD

Interesting article here, from a US perspective.

Over half of the people who did not vote in the Irish referendum complained of "a lack of understanding of the issues", and younger non-voters outnumbered their older counterparts by a ratio of two to one.

Presented with a number of possible reasons for not voting, many respondents said this was either due to a lack of knowledge (52 percent had not fully understood the issues, 42 percent had not been informed about the issues at stake and 37 percent felt they were not informed about the treaty content) or because the referendum was not important enough for them. Just under half – 45 percent – said they were too busy to vote and 38 percent had something more important to do than vote in the referendum.

These are some of the preliminary results of the survey of the Irish referendum, now published on the Eurobarometer site.

Of special significance is the motivation of voters in the two camps. For the "yes" voters, the prime motivation was the feeling that "Lisbon" was in Ireland's best interest, but the reasons mentioned were mostly "one-dimensional", centred around how Ireland has benefited from the EU. On the other hand, the "no" voters presented a "much wider diverse spectrum of reasons", but still a quarter complained of a "lack of information".

The "significant" supporters of the "no" campaign were young people, women and the unemployed. Professionals, managers and retirees were the main backers of the "yes" campaign.

Many of the "no" voters thought that the result would put Ireland in a strong position to renegotiate the treaty, to allow Ireland to maintain its neutrality and to keep its tax system (all backed by three-quarters of voters or more).

As to the campaign itself, a large majority of voters (68 percent) said the "no" campaign was the most convincing; even a majority of "yes" voters felt that way (57 percent). Yet, despite that, more people who voted "yes" had changed their minds during the campaign (25 percent of the "yes" and 17 percent of "no" voters started out from a different position).

These results are going to take some considerable digesting and there is still the final report to come. To some extent, they offer conflicting signals ("no" voters being more motivated, but more people switching to "yes" despite the better "no" campaign).

What does come out with absolute clarity, though, was that the inability to understand the text of the treaty was a considerable handicap to the "yes" campaign. However, how people would have voted, had they felt themselves better informed, is an unanswered question.

COMMENT THREAD

The BBC reports that Gordon Brown has put the ratification of the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty on hold "until the High Court has ruled on a bid to force a British referendum".

The judge has expressed surprise that the government had pressed ahead with ratification in the circumstances. Well, indeed, a number of peers argued precisely that, though referring to the Irish result, which has actually killed the treaty as it exists. What was the hurry?

We were told that ratification was vitally important to give the Prime Minister a stronger hand during the European Council when he was, allegedly, going to have to represent Britain's interests. It seems that he has not got that stronger hand but then he was not about to represent our interests, anyway.

Despite the intense speculation on his intentions, Cowen is saying that he (and he alone, it seems) cannot speculate whether Ireland is to hold another referendum. He says he needs more time to make an analysis of the situation in Ireland, adding: "I have to get involved in a process of engagement."

This leaves Sarkozy in an interesting (in the Chinese sense) position. In his role as EU president, he is to visit Dublin next month, keen to avoid what is being called "the risk of contagion" – i.e., the Czech Republic following suit, declaring that, "Ireland is a problem. But if we had a second or a third problem, it would become very difficult to solve."

Re-emphasising that renegotiation "is out of the question", Sarkozy flatly states, "We are not going to redo a second simplified treaty."

However, from yet another photograph of the Council meeting, showing Cowen, Barroso and Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen – all enjoying a jolly little jest – it seems that the Irish PM is not too worried about his country having created such havoc.

COMMENT THREAD

Will the UN be held responsible for not preventing the massacre and, even collaborating to some extent with those whose intention it was to carry it out? The Dutch government is arguing that the UN should keep its immunity while the victims' families say otherwise. Judgement to be handed down in July.

A brief summary over on BrugesGroupBlog.

With the "noise level" extremely high, it is evident that the hacks are having trouble making sense of the European Council meeting. Headlines are all over the place, with different organs offering their own "takes" on the outcome.

The BBC, for example. homes in on the "Czech threat", noting that which is well known to readers of this blog that the Czech Republic may not be able to ratify the Lisbon Treaty until it has been cleared by the constitutional court.

Interestingly, here we get a quote from Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek who says he was not going to try to halt the ratification process in his country, but adding: "I am not going to force MPs to back Lisbon and I wouldn't bet 100 crowns (£3, $6) on a Czech Yes." Klaus is still adamant that the Irish vote has killed off the treaty.

The Guardian focuses on David Miliband offering an "absolute guarantee" that the Lisbon treaty would not come into force unless it was accepted by the people of Ireland. He has rejected suggestions that Britain wanted Ireland to rerun its referendum in the hope of securing a "yes" vote and said there would be "no bamboozling or bulldozing" of Dublin as it considered its next move.

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal takes as its main line that the Council has agreed that its member states should continue ratifying a key reform treaty, but has "delayed until October" decisions on how to overcome the document's rejection in an Irish referendum.

With some others, EU Business picks up on Sarkozy’s accusation that trade commissioner Peter Mandelson played a role in the treaty's Irish downfall. It also notes that the "summit" has been overshadowed by the Irish result, despite efforts to concentrate on food and fuel prices.

Altogether, then, we have much heat and very little light. The EU has now reverted to its all-too familiar trench warfare condition, where developments are going to take place behind the scenes, at a glacial pace, leaving the media confused and the nerds like us on this blog struggling to work out what is really going on.

Andrew Grice of The Independent pitches it perfectly, writing, "There is a fair amount of double-speak at these summits."

Here, he says, the other EU leaders insist they are not putting pressure on Ireland to overturn the "no" vote so the stalled treaty (which requires approval by all 27 countries) can be implemented. Yet behind the scenes they seem to be doing just that.

Thus does Grice continue: "The leaders say they are not setting a deadline for Ireland to chart a way out of the mess. Yet they have told the Irish Government to find one by the next EU summit in October. They say they are not demanding a second referendum yet privately are talking up one next year." That, dear readers, is the EU for you.

Meanwhile, there are fresh developments on the Wheeler case, with Judge David Richards in the High Court "instructing" the British government to delay its ratification of the treaty until he rules on Wheeler's judicial review.

Although the ratification Bill was given royal assent on Thursday, the treaty is not actually formally ratified until the government deposits its "instruments of ratification" with the Italian government. According to an FCO spokesman, this has not yet happened, the plan being to do so "within weeks".

Judge Richards intends to hand down his ruling next week, and has stated (full text here ): "The court is very surprised that the government apparently proposes to ratify while the claimant's (Wheeler) challenge to the decision not to hold a referendum on ratification is before the court," he said. He thus has invited the defendants (the government) "to stay their hand voluntarily until judgment."

As the judge has indicated, if this does not happen, Wheeler could apply for an injunction, and if the government is then in breach we could see Miliband hauled before the court. That would be fun.

COMMENT THREAD

After all the drama of the last seven days, this current European Council meeting – or "summit" as most of the hacks insist on calling it - is turning out to be one of the most phenomenal anti-climaxes of all time.

Apart from Brown getting a beaming grin from el presidente Barroso (left) and an adoring glance from Frau Merkel (below right), there is little of interest coming from it apart from a commitment to do absolutely nothing about Ireland (openly) until October.

The original "Plan B" – or is it C? – has proved to risky in the high intensity spotlight of media scrutiny and has been temporarily set aside. But the "colleagues" are still intent on ensuring that remaining states apart from Ireland complete their ratification. Then, at the October European Council, held under the French presidency, they will await a new proposal from the luckless Cowen.

At that meeting he is expected to come up with a new plan for a referendum, with assurances this time that he is going to win it. Expect a revised question that, effectively, links a "no" vote with the threat of being expelled for the EU – or some such. Dates as early as November are being suggested, with March being the most commonly touted.

That said, The Irish Times has Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, Micheal Martin, denying that there will be "solutions by October" – although he and his boss will be "exploring options and ideas." You can certainly bet on that.

Killing the idea of any confrontation, Martin confided in the media that he did not expect to get a hard time from his EU colleagues. "There is no question of us getting it in the neck; there never has been," he said, adding that there was an appreciation of the real politique of the position by our European partners. "Europe has been through things like this in the past," he declared.

The great plan, according to Martin – roughly the equivalent of turning water into wine - is to ensure that that the decision of the Irish people is "respected" while "equally respecting the right of the other member states to reach their own position on the treaty."

When the "colleagues" have finished respecting each other's positions, and sucking up to the loathesome Gordon, they will get down to the serious business of agreeing the pre-drafted Council communiqué. Then they will all toddle off home later today feeling mightily pleased with themselves. No one else will be any the wiser.

So the "colleagues" have marched us up to the top of the hill, and are now marching us down again.

COMMENT THREAD

According to EUBusiness, not an organization that can be accused of euroscepticism, not even in one's wildest dreams (the one in which both David Cameron and Gordon Brown are closet sceptics) the forthcoming European Council may well be a little rocky.
Soaring fuel and food prices posed a stiff challenge to EU leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels on Thursday, amid deep divisions over how to respond to growing calls for action.

Following Irish voters' rejection of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty last week, EU leaders are eager to demonstrate that the bloc can tackle the toughest issues and has not slumped back into a period of painful navel-gazing.
Why break the habit of a lifetime, say I, and stop navel-gazing?

The problem is that there are as many solutions to the problem of rocketing fuel prices as there are countries. Tax cuts or tax rises? Less regulation or more? EU-wide action or by individual member states? Short-term measures (always a good idea if you are a politician) or long-term but possibly painful solutions? New research, perhaps, but into what and with what results?

It will all add up to an entertaining couple of days, is my opinion.

Claims that Gordon Brown was ever a "eurosceptic" must surely now have died. With the constitutional treaty having received royal assent this morning, the man is being hailed by the "colleagues" as the hero of the hour for keeping the treaty alive.

There can be no doubt that, had Brown decided to allow suspension of the treaty, it would have been on the way to its coffin, whereas he has simply banged another nail in the coffin of our parliamentary democracy.

No wonder EU leaders and senior officials are today "lavishing praise" on our provincial governor, with Hans-Gert Pöttering, president of the EU parliament, chortling that the EU Treaty was "certainly not" dead following the Lords vote yesterday.

Barroso is joining in, declaring: "I would like to congratulate the United Kingdom on the approval of the Treaty," thanking: "… the government and Parliament for the constant support for the new Treaty during the negotiation and ratification process."

Janez Jansa, Slovenia's prime minister adds: "Another endorsement of the treaty proves that it is still a living document .This confirmation gives the EU a strong impetus and motivation for the completion of ratification procedures in the rest of the member states."

And then there is Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, a senior Spanish MEP who happily observes that, "The British vote reduces the Irish no vote to a glitch." I am sure the Irish will be pleased to hear that.

COMMENT THREAD